Under-Fire Clear Channel Tops US Radio Revenue Poll

14 March 2002

A mixed day of news for American media group Clear Channel Communications: new figures show it has retained its position as the biggest revenue generator in the radio industry, but it also faces accusations of concealing control of some stations to avoid regulatory action.

A survey of radio stations by strategic advisory firm BIA Financial Network found that Clear Channel brings in more revenues than any other group in the sector, taking more than $3.2 billion last year. It also owns the top two stations by revenue: KIIS-FM in Los Angeles and WLTW-FM in New York.

Lagging Clear Channel is Viacom, whose stations bring in just over $2bn, then Cox Radio ($428 million), Entercom Communications ($408m), ABC Radio ($401m) and African-American-targeted Radio One ($287m).

The top 25 radio groups, accounting for around 52% of the sector, suffered a 7% fall in revenues between them.

Separately, a number of critics, including Washington communications lawyer Arthur Belendiuk, allege that Clear Channel’s hold on the radio market may be greater than official figures suggest.

On top of the 1,225 US stations Clear Channel owns (10% of the market), the group is accused of controlling a further 75, pushing it over federal ownership limits in some areas.

The concerns focus on the acquisition of stations by other companies, which then forge deals ceding control over programming or advertising to Clear Channel, effectively increasing the radio giant’s hold on the market involved.

Belendiuk has filed a petition against two Clear Channel purchases: KBRQ-FM in Waco, Texas, and WKKJ-FM in Chillicothe, Ohio. In both cases, Clear Channel is accused of controlling other groups in the respective markets.

“The problem,” declared Belendiuk, “is that you have a company that’s been told not to own radio stations in certain markets and has decided it’s going to control those radio stations anyway.”

Data sourced from: BIA Financial Network; MediaWeek.com (USA); BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff